Republicans' fourth primetime debate on Tuesday ended with a now-familiar winner's circle, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds, while dealing a significant blow to Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
As in the prior debate, Republican and Republican-leaning voters who watched at least clips of the event -- "GOP voters," for the sake of brevity -- named Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) the winner, followed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and current front-runners Ben Carson and Donald Trump. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who forcefully defended his libertarian principles after a string of lackluster debates, was the only other candidate to top 5 percent.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's performance was less calamitous than his previous outing, when he clashed halfheartedly with Rubio, but he continued to make a negative impression on voters. The politician to incur the most damage this time, however, was Kasich, who stood out largely for his exasperation with his fellow candidates.
At the earlier undercard debate, meanwhile, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), bumped out of the top tier, handily bested his opponents -- 53 percent of Republican voters who tuned in for at least part of that debate named him the winner. Despite goading from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), Christie focused his energy squarely on the general election, pivoting repeatedly back to attacks against Hillary Clinton.
GOP voters prefer that strategy to infighting among the candidates, although by a relatively slim margin. Among those who watched either the undercard or the primetime debate, 51 percent said they'd prefer to hear the contenders talk about how they would challenge Democrats in the general election, while 41 percent said they'd rather have the candidates focus on discussing the differences between themselves and the other GOP contenders on policy issues. When Republican and Republican-leaning voters who didn't catch the latest debates are included, preferences are split about evenly.
GOP voters who watched the debate did broadly agree on one thing: 84 percent thought that Fox Business, which moderated the event, did a good job -- a marked change from the last debate, when 81 percent disapproved of how CNBC ran the event.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Nov. 11-13 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.
The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the polls' methodology are available here.
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